MacMost Now 891: Customizing Your Desktop With GeekTool

The free GeekTool app allows you to put images, file content and shell script output right on your Desktop background. You can use this to customize your desktop in a variety of ways, such as showing current weather, news or financial information. Or, you can use it to monitor your Mac or systems on the Internet.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at Geek Tool.

Geek Tool is an interesting way for you to extend your Desktop by adding little widgets to it. Things that you can see on your Desktop that are kind of there in the background.

You can get Geek Tool in the Mac App Store. Just do a quick search for it and it will come right up. You can download it for free.

So here is what Geek Tool looks like when you run it. Now you drag and drop things out of here onto your Desktop. For instance let's try dragging an image out. It is going to create this little space here on the Desktop that I can move around anywhere that I want. Then under Properties here, I can set Properties of that image.

Now that image can be something locally like a local image that you've got but that doesn't really give you any functionality. What is more interesting is to put a URL. I'm going to paste in an URL of a weather satellite image that is updated from the US government. What will happen is I can put that here and I can drag it and enlarge it.

That image is on the Desktop. If I click out of Geek Tool and I'm just in the Finder now I can see that it is just there on the background. Part of the background of the Desktop. It will remain there. I can cover it with stuff. I can't drag it again until I select Geek Tool again and then I can drag it. But the cool thing is that it will update as the image changes. So everyday I can look and see the new weather information.

Weather is an obvious one but you can think of probably other images that are out there where there is a static URL but the actual image there changes like say maybe a webcam or something.

In addition you can drag file information. So this will put some text here on the Desktop. This text I can put anywhere I want and I can resize the window. I can set what it is. So like I can for instance use a log file here. Let me get my Apache firewall log if I want to be really geeky and it will put that information there on the Desktop and as that file changes it will be updated. So this could be something here where you can have logs or some other information that appears and it changes. Again if I am not in Geek Tool you can see it is just static information on the Desktop. It is not really static. It will be updated but I can't change it or affect it. It is really there on the Desktop in the background.

Probably the most ultra geeky thing that you can do is to use a shell script. Let me put a shell script here. It is like a terminal command. I can do something like top which will display information about things that are running on my Mac and I can have it update every three seconds. Let me make it an easier color to see. There we go. Now you can see this information here. You can see the results of top.

Or I can use something like all sorts of different things to display the current date. You can see it displays the date there as it would return from a terminal command but in addition I can now customize that by changing the font and color. So I can put a clock on my Desktop that easily. Now if I click off you can see that it just stays there in the background on the Desktop. Remember I said it should update every three seconds so you can see it is doing that. Probably for this one I would want to set it to update every second so it now acts like a normal clock there on the background of my Desktop.

You can use any shell script. So the more you know about programming, the more you know about terminal commands, you can put different bits on here, Geeklets they are called, on your Desktop to give you information. Then when you quit Geek Tool you can say No I do not want to disable Geek Tool I just want to quit running the app there. I am not running the app anymore but this information remains on the screen. You can see this is updating. The Apache firewall would update and also this weather image here would update all at the same time while things change in the world.

So that is the basics. Now if you search for a Geek Tool ideas or Geek Tool Geeklets or whatever on the internet you will find out all sorts of ideas that other people have done with Geek Tool. Stuff that they can use from shell scripts and images and texts files or URLs that they can display on their Desktop to give them useful information and make them more productive.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 12 Responses to “MacMost Now 891: Customizing Your Desktop With GeekTool”

    John Pearson
    7/15/13 @ 11:35 am

    Love the idea of geek tool and this was a good video tutorial. Unfortunately, when I downloaded geektool it did not work. I have a new iMac, so it should work fine. I could add an image to the desktop, and a local image worked fine. However, when I added a url as you showed in the video, nothing happened, and the radar image (from the url I added) didn’t appear in the image box. Nothing did. All of the sudden, from what seemed a cool new thing for the desktop, it became a useless waste of time.

    7/16/13 @ 7:49 pm

    Can you share the text that was used to get the date and time all in one Geeklet?

    James M. Gross
    7/18/13 @ 7:45 am

    Hi Gary,

    Great video describing GeekTool. Thank you.

    How do you spell the GeekTool applets? I want to use it as a search term to find more of them.

    Also, Is there a listing, available, with descriptions of Shell calls. “Date” was a great example for me.

    Thanks in advance. Keep up the great videos!

      7/18/13 @ 7:56 pm

      I don’t know of any list of applets or shell commands off the top of my head — but a quick search should turn up each of those.

    James M. Gross
    7/18/13 @ 7:51 am

    Hi Gary,

    One more question . . . .

    The weather image which updates, do you have to use a refresh time? If so, what rate would it be?

    Again, thanks.

      7/18/13 @ 7:57 pm

      Use whatever rate you want. If a web site updates an image every hour, then you can use once per hour, for example.

    7/18/13 @ 9:34 am

    I am running Snow Leopard and have been unable to download a version of Geektool that works… Any suggestions I have gone to and tried two versions there. ????

      7/18/13 @ 7:58 pm

      Sorry, no suggestions. I’m not using Snow Leopard on any Macs anymore, so I can’t try it myself.

    John C Stires
    7/18/13 @ 10:58 pm

    I’m having the same experience that Person described (10.8.4). I copy and paste the NWS URL and… nada. I can put pics in without trouble but not URLs. It’s as if it’s waiting for me to push a “Done” button or something. (

    John C Stires
    7/18/13 @ 11:01 pm

    OK, delete previous comment; it’s for PICTURES (jpg’s), an URL that is a picture. Not live URLs; got it!

Comments Closed.